MBA Remains the Top Choice, Demand for Business Master’s Degree Rises : GMAC Survey
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MBA Remains the Top Choice, Demand for Business Master’s Degree Rises : GMAC Survey

A new research from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) found that 3 in 4 prospective graduate business school candidates who hold a prior master’s degree are considering enrolling in MBA programs. The Council’s 2017 mba.com Prospective Students Survey Report, shows that, MBA remains the top choice qualification to be pursued by candidates with prior business master’s degree (61%) and non-business master’s degrees (86%). 

The Prospective Students Survey Report is based on survey responses provided by 11,617 individuals who registered on mba.com between February and December 2016. 



Sangeet Chowfla, President and CEO of GMAC said that, “these findings demonstrate that a business master’s degree is not necessarily the end of graduates’ business education. For many, their business master’s degree is a stepping stone to continued professional development that may include an MBA down the road, in either a full-time or part-time format”.

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Finding of the survey report show that globally 22% of prospective business school candidates have a prior master’s degree with considerable regional variation. While 2 in 5 European candidates have a prior master’s-level credential, the same is true of just 14% of U.S. candidates.

Globally, the percentage of candidates considering only business master’s degrees such as Master of Finance, Master of Accounting, and Master in Management has increased from 15% in 2009 to 23% in 2016. This rise in interest has been particularly strong among candidates from East and Southeast Asia and Western Europe, where now more than 2 in 5 candidates report considering only these program types, the survey report said.

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The survey found that demand for Business Master’s Programs was continue to grow. In keeping with the demand, non-MBA business master’s programs were proliferating.

However, candidates were looking for non-MBA programs and MBA programs seeking different outcomes. Candidates considering non-MBA business master’s degree are younger with the majority having little to no prior work experience.

Compared with MBA candidates, individuals preferring business master’s degree were found to be more interested in developing their technical skills. MBA candidates are typically older, have more years of work experience and are more interested in developing their managerial and leadership skills.

The report found that the demand of international study remains strong. Nearly 3 in 5 prospective business school students (59%) intended to apply programs outside their country of residence, to receive a higher-quality education (63%), to increase their chance of securing international employment (58%), and to expand their international connections (51%).

One-third (34%) of candidates who prefer to study outside their country of citizenship intended to seek employment in the country where they prefer to attend school, the survey report said. Meanwhile, the U.S. remained the most preferred study destination though candidate preferences were shifting.

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Consistent with past research, more than 9 in 10 U.S. candidates prefer to study in their own country (96%). Globally, among full-time MBA candidates looking to study outside their country of citizenship, 58% prefer to study in the U.S., down from 61% in 2009. Since 2009, there has been an increase in MBA candidates preferring to study in Canada (4% in 2009 vs. 7% in 2016).

A similar shift in preferred study destinations was noted among non-US candidates interested in business master’s programs. In 2016, 47 per cent of non-US prospective students interested in business master’s programs expressed a preference for study in the U.S., down from 57 per cent in 2009.

Over a period, a greater share of these candidates have shown interest in applying to programs in Western Europe, Canada and East and Southeast Asia.

However, recent changes in immigration policies may impact candidates’ study destination preferences in 2017. Anticipated changes in US immigration policies and last year’s Brexit vote in the United Kingdom may make it more difficult for non-citizens to obtain student visas to study in those countries or to obtain work visas after graduation to seek employment, one of the main reasons for studying in those countries.

Since November 2016 after the US Presidential election results, a growing share of international candidates say they are now less likely to pursue a graduate business degree in the US.

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The percentage of non-US citizen mba.com registrants who say they are now less likely to study in the U.S. has grown from 35% in November 2016 to 43% in April 2017.

Early indications are that the British Brexit vote to leave the European Union may negatively impact international candidate demand to apply to UK business schools. In December 2016, among nearly 1,300 non-UK GMAT test takers surveyed about the Brexit vote, 45% indicated that the Brexit vote has made them less likely to study in the UK.

The analysis reveals that Indian candidates are the most negatively influenced by the Brexit vote, with 58% reporting that it has made them less likely to study in the UK.

Education Costs and Financing remain the heavy weigh for candidates intending to pursue an MBA program. Approximately half (52% of respondents) of surveyed candidates indicate that not having enough money available to pay for their education and potentially having to take on large debts (47%) may prevent them from pursuing a graduate business degree.

Total tuition costs and availability of scholarship are the two most important financial aspects that candidates evaluate while deciding where to apply.

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Compared with 2009, candidates, on average, expect to cover a greater share of the cost of their education with grants, fellowships, and scholarships and a smaller share with parental support, loans, and employer assistance, GMAC says.

The Reston, US-based Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) is a global, non-profit association of 220 leading graduate business schools with offices in London, New Delhi (Gurgaon) and Hong Kong. Founded in 1953, GMAC owns and administers the Graduate Management Admission Test® (GMAT®), used by more than 6,500 graduate programs worldwide, and the NMAT by GMAC™ exam, for entrance into graduate management programs in India.

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